By Noel Ward, Executive Editor Glockenspiel Clock Tower, Munich March 21, 2005 -- It was cold in Munich early this month, the Alps rising in the distance and the surrounding countryside cloaked in snow. But the winter chill didn't affect those gathered in Poing, a thirty minute autobahns and country road journey from Munich's Marienplatz. Océ's Open House (February 28 to March 4) was packed with an international crowd from Europe, Asia and North America. Held annually in a wing of Océ's Poing factory, Open House is billed as Europe's largest annual digital printing trade fair. This year, some five thousand attendees--a mix of customers and prospects--spent up to five days seeing, touching, examining and talking about virtually every piece of equipment Océ makes. All shared an interest in seeing what Océ technology could deliver for their business. It was technology from the get-go. Walking in the main entry, your name would flash on a big plasma display, triggered by the RFID tag in your name badge. Entering the hall there were milkshakes to the left and cappuccinos to the right, but the big blue wall just ahead drew most of your attention. Nearly a dozen demonstration stations showcased the key modules of PRISMA, Océ's architected family of workflow software. PRISMA, modular to its source code, comprises numerous programs that address specific steps in document processing workflows. There are tools that support document composition, variable data, proofing, remote submission, archiving, and more, many tailored to the needs of specific environments. One of PRISMA's most unique features is its support for both Océ and non-Océ equipment. This enables customers to run IBM, Océ and Xerox printers using one consistent suite of software, with greater efficiency than would be possible running different software for each vendor's equipment. The stations along the wall gave attendees an opportunity to see the ease with which the various tools could be used and understand how they can fit into their print shops. Having PRISMA be the first thing people saw emphasized its position as the foundation for most everything else at Open House. Down the right side of the room was corporate printing, divided into solutions for finance, telcos, utilities, public services, and education, all using various PRISMA components. On left were the commercial printing systems--and where the bulk of the crowds always seemed to be. This area was divided into segments for marketing services, graphic arts, wide format, digital print providers, and DNN, the digital news network. Each showed distinct Océ printing solutions enabled by various PRISMA modules and in conjunction with finishing equipment from one of Océ's partner companies. It Folds, It Glues, It Stitches,! VarioStream 7000 Twin Books are a mainstay at Océ and among many of its customers. The VarioPrint 5000, VarioStream 7000 and CPS 900 color printers were all part of book production in Poing, but it was the finishing equipment on the back end of one of the 7000s that caught my eye. The print engine was churning out a variety of one and two-color booklets ranging from a dozen or so pages to some half an inch thick. Putting those pages together was the job of an new system from IBIS, makers of the Digi-Stitcher that came out in 2000. In Poing, IBIS rolled out the Smart-Binder, which can be combined with the Digi-Stitcher and configured in various ways to create one of the most broadly capable book finishing systems on the market. It folds and collates individual sheets, placing a set of glue dots along the spine in a way that virtually welds the pages together, not only along the outer fold of the spine, but also on the adjacent front and back edges. The result is a glued binding that looks as if the signatures are sewn together, even when assembled as a perfect-bound, square-back book up to 45 mm thick (1.77" or about 900 pages). When saddle-stitching is preferred, the gluing unit can be turned off and the system can handle booklets up to 10mm thick (0.4" or about 200 pages). An optional three-knife trimmer finishes the job. Throughput varies based on configuration and book thickness. It's not a system for every book manufacturer, but it offers unprecedented flexibility for a book printer that produces a wide range of book sizes. DNN One of the things I like about going to Europe is reading newspapers that give a more international view of the world than we get in most U.S. papers. Since I read only English, the first thing I did when I got off the plane in Munich was grab a copy of two favorites, The Guardian and the International Herald Tribune. The Trib was produced conventionally, but The Guardian was part of Océ's DNN or Digital News Network, a group of printers around the planet that use Océ technology to produce shortened versions of about a dozen international titles that are distributed (often free) in airports, hotels and other locations frequented by travelers. The system at Open House used Océ VarioStream 9000 continuous-feed presses, one of which was periodically configured to print in two colors to produce the distinct look of the German paper Welt Kompakt, while the other machine ran black only. Copies of The Guardian, the European edition of the Wall Street Journal, Suddeutche Zeitung, the Italian il Giornale, and several others were available at a red kiosk near the presses. The DNN Kiosk held digitally printed papers from around the world. The VarioStream 9000 printed both monochrome and 2-color papers New Announcements Océ took the opportunity of Open House to roll out the VarioPrint 5000advanced, an all-in-one Custom Tone production printer. Different versions feature speeds of 110, 137 and 158 ppm and monthly print volumes ranging from 300,000 to 2 million. Its PRISMAproduction+POD front end enables it to handle jobs in AFP/IPDS or LCDS data streams, along with PostScript, PDF, TIFF, and PPML. It can also take in Xerox DigiPath jobs, a real advantage in mixed print environments. CustomTone enables use of Océ's large palette of custom colors through quick change developer stations (QCDS) which also enable the use of MICR. The new VarioPrint 5000advanced offers one and two-color and MICR printing. There was also the VarioStream 7000 Triplex, which enables 2/1 applications at a rate of 1,060 letter-size impressions per minute. The system can also be configured to print as one twin and one single, or as three single printers. The CPS 800 and 900 full-color printers are now available in a Platinum Platform featuring new Two-S toners (smoother and sharper) that have a smaller, more consistent particle size. The samples I saw showed a substantial difference in print quality between the standard and Platinum models using the new toners, especially on solid colors and in detailed images. The new models can run up to 300gsm paper at full-rated speed of 31ppm, making them more competitive with some otherwise faster machines from Canon, HP-Indigo and Xerox that must slow substantially when running heavier stocks. As at any trade fair, there was more at Open House, such as numerous examples of wide format printing, creative theater presentations that presented Océ technology in a fun and educational format, and of course, a good selection of beers at lunch. This was Germany after all!